BROSSARD - After a team suffers its sixth straight loss, a coach could be forgiven for wanting to run his team through a tough practice or a bag skate, but that's not the route Canadiens bench boss Claude Julien took following his club's 6-4 defeat at the hands of the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
Rather, the Habs held an off-ice workout with just three skaters and backup Keith Kinkaid hitting the ice. And with a busy back-to-back weekend coming up, it's easy to see why Julien gave his group a bit of a break.
"The biggest thing for us as coaches is trying to do the right thing. And when you look at three games in four days, the biggest thing we could do for our team today was keep them off the ice," explained the coach. "I think the practice today would've been a real heavy practice. The guys are already frustrated and not feeling good about the situation. So for us, it was about keeping them off the ice so that we can be fresh for this back-to-back coming up this weekend."
Video: Claude Julien's press conference
The weekend presents a challenge for Julien's squad, who will face a Philadelphia Flyers team that's won three of its past four games and the Boston Bruins, the authors of an 8-1 drubbing at the Canadiens' expense earlier in the week.
Despite the dire situation they find themselves in, the Habs are doing their best to keep their eye on the ball, but know there's no easy solution to their troubles.
"We're really not focused on a quick fix, or the slump or whatever you want to call it. The matter is, is we have to win our next hockey game and that's all we're really focused on right now. It's all you can do: put your energy into that and do everything you possibly can," outlined Max Domi, who earned an assist on Jesperi Kotkaniemi's second-period marker on Thursday. "We're we're going to stick together here, we're going to find a way to do it. We all believe in each other."
Video: Max Domi on keeping focus on the next game
In Julien's estimation, some of his team's mistakes are stemming from the fact that his players are trying to do too much as they try to get the monkey off their collective back.
"The secret to turning things around for anybody going through [a slump] is pretty simple: just do your job. Don't do anybody else's. And do it well. Right now, we have guys who are trying so hard, that the will to want to do so well is overtaking the right to make those good decisions," posited the coach. "That's what's happening right now: when you try and do too much, you end up out of position, you end up trying to do your job and somebody else's, and we all know that never works."
For Artturi Lehkonen, who scored his sixth of the season to make it a 5-4 game against New Jersey, it's a question of believing in one another and feeling comfortable that everyone will indeed pull their own weight and play their role.
"We just have to trust each other that we're going to do our jobs," said Lehkonen, who has five points in his last five games. "We have to find the confidence in each other and work together and get out of it."
Video: Artturi Lehkonen on the need to work together
Goaltender Carey Price expressed some frustration during the Devils game, clearly none too pleased with the Canadiens' current state of affairs.
As a veteran of seven NHL seasons, Kinkaid knows he can offer up plenty in the way of support for the Habs' No. 1 netminder as he works his way through the current funk.
"Just motivate him, have some friendly competition, give stick taps for big saves in practice and whatnot. He does that constantly to me, so he's been great with that. Even when a save I think is relatively routine, you always hear him at the other end tapping his stick," shared Kinkaid. "It's just about being encouraged. He doesn't need that; he knows what to do. He's a top-notch professional; he's the best in the game."
Video: Keith Kinkaid on supporting Carey Price
When asked if he was concerned about the recent play of the All-World netminder, Julien gave a very definitive "No."
Still, the coach said he plans on using Kinkaid at some point over the weekend, and the Farmingville, NY native says he's perfectly ready to step in and try to help.
"That's part of my job. If it does happen, I just have to give my team the best chance to win. Whether that's being a game changer just for one game to help us, or just a change of pace," stated Kinkaid, who has a 1-1-2 record this season. "I just have to do my job, stop every puck as it comes. Don't focus on anything if you let up a goal. Forget about it right away. If I am in net, I'm just going to do my best to give my team a shot. I've been working hard in and out of the gym and on the ice, and I'm ready."
The Canadiens take on the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre. For tickets, click here.